Making buildings healthy is one of the building sector’s current goals. Radon gas can have a significant effect on an area’s residents and users, so controlling it is essential. What effect does radon gas have on our health?
Radon affects our health. According to WHO estimates, the proportion of lung cancer cases attributable to radon varies between 3% and 14% of the total.
During its final phase of disintegration, radon escapes into the air, where it decays and produces radioactive particles. As we breathe and inhale the particles, they are deposited on the cells lining the airways, where they can damage DNA and cause health problems.
Does radon cause cancer?
An increased rate of lung cancer was first detected in uranium miners exposed to high concentrations of radon gas. In addition, studies have confirmed that even at low concentrations, such as those found in buildings, radon also poses health risks and contributes significantly to the occurrence of lung cancer across the world.
The risk of lung cancer increases by 16% per 100 Bq/m3 increase in the average radon concentration over time.Thus, the risk of lung cancer increases in proportion with increased exposure to radon. So far, no other cancer risks attributable to radon have been proved.
Water contaminated with radon gas
Epidemiological studies have not found any link between consuming drinking water containing radon and an increased risk of stomach cancer. However, radon dissolved in drinking water can affect the health of residents and users of interior spaces, as it gets in the air.
The WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality recommend that screening levels for radon concentration in drinking water are set on the basis of the national reference level for radon in air. In circumstances where high radon concentrations might be expected in drinking water, it is prudent to measure radon concentrations.
Public health organizations warn of radon gas danger
Some organizations have spoken of the risk that radon gas poses to our health:
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the American Lung Association (ALA): claim that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
- National Institute for Safety and Hygiene at Work (INSHT): In Spain, in 1943, the first studies that mention radon as a possible carcinogen were conducted. The effects found in subsequent studies revealed hyperactivity in the skin, in the lungs and in the adrenal glands.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer: In 1988, it was established that radon was carcinogenic.
- Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM): Taking into account the data of annual cancer deaths since 2012 and the conclusions of European studies that estimate that 2% of all cancer deaths are caused by radon, in Spain this year there could be more than 2,000 deaths involving radon gas. This number is close to the rate of deaths caused annually by traffic accidents in Spain.
How does radon affect human health?
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